South Carolina v. Cervantes-Pavon

The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Dennis Cervantes-Pavon's petition for a writ of certiorari to determine whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the circuit court's denial of immunity from prosecution under the Protection of Persons and Property Act. Cervantes-Pavon was indicted for murdering Raymond Muniz by stabbing him with a sheetrock saw at their workplace. Both men worked on a construction project at the Belk department store in Mount Pleasant. Prior to trial, Cervantes-Pavon moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing he was immune from prosecution under the Act. At the hearing, construction superintendent Herbie Evans testified he became aware of a problem between Muniz and Cervantes-Pavon when Cervantes-Pavon approached Evans and stated Muniz was picking on him. Evans spoke with Muniz and informed him that he would not tolerate any conflicts between employees and would send them home if one occurred. Evans did not witness any interactions between Muniz and Cervantes-Pavon on that day. Jose Somosa testified he worked with Muniz and Cervantes-Pavon on the Belk project. Somosa recalled that the day before the stabbing, Muniz had removed his shirt and attempted to fight Cervantes-Pavon, who refused. The next day, Somosa was working as Cervantes-Pavon's helper on the project by staying on the ground while Cervantes-Pavon worked on a ladder. According to Somosa, each time Muniz walked by Cervantes-Pavon, Muniz would say the two men should fight and Cervantes-Pavon would respond that he didn't want any trouble. Animosity between the two eventually erupted with Cervantes-Pavon stabbing Muniz. The State argued the issue was a "clear question of fact" regarding selfdefense, noting Cervantes-Pavon stabbed Muniz when Muniz was unarmed. The State contended the evidence presented did not rise to a preponderance of the evidence that Cervantes-Pavon acted in self-defense. The circuit court denied Cervantes-Pavon's motion. The court noted the Act grants immunity if a movant proves the factors by a preponderance of the evidence. Because there were erroneous bases on which to deny immunity, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's decision and remanded for a new hearing. View "South Carolina v. Cervantes-Pavon" on Justia Law